UPMC's potshots at Highmark off-target
When I saw UPMC's latest TV ad a few nights ago, I initially thought it was a scene from a Lifetime movie.
An elegant but frazzled, middle-aged woman stands in her beautiful kitchen while making a seemingly important phone call in what we're told is January 2015. She runs her fingers through her hair, pleading with someone to allow her to go to her longtime UPMC hospital.
“You want me to go to what hospital?” she says with the overly rehearsed, theatrical indignation that makes you wonder if the person at the other end suggested she go to a hospital in Cuba. “I've always gone to UPMC Passavant.”
Let's ignore the fact that no one calls the hospital “UPMC Passavant.” (The average person calls it simply Passavant.) And let's forget the strenuous, dramatic pauses and funereal background music.
The hyped-up woman has a point. She should be able to go where she wants. All she has to do is switch to an insurance plan that gives her access to UPMC.
Because the ad takes place in the future, the woman presumably has had a few years to make the change. Why she chooses to vilify Highmark instead of calling out her employer for not offering other insurance options is beyond me.
This ad and others, which began to air about two weeks ago, try hard to soften UPMC so it doesn't come across as the heavy in the ongoing battle with Highmark Inc. The point is to hammer the reality that, come 2015, those insured by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield will not be able to get care at UPMC because contracts between the two will have expired.
UPMC says it started the ad campaign to make people understand this will happen soon — it's 18 months away, to be exact. UPMC leaders believe it would be a disservice for someone to buy Highmark insurance thinking he or she could go to Passavant or any of UPMC's 19 other hospitals. UPMC won't outwardly admit it, but the ads aim to disparage Highmark and its new Allegheny Health Network.
“Highmark has a hospital?” says one of the ads. “Yeah, the old West Penn Allegheny Health System.” Extra points to the creative team for the subtle potshot, however unnecessary.
In another commercial, Dr. Steve Shapiro, UPMC's chief medical officer, shares his worry that in order to succeed, Highmark will need to shift 41,000 patients to its hospital network and away from UPMC. Shapiro is burdened with the dubious task of telling us that without those patients, UPMC could be forced to close Shadyside or Mercy.
As if that would ever happen. Though roughly 28,000 annual admissions to UPMC are patients who carry Highmark cards, you'll never hear Shapiro worry that UPMC might have to shutter its hospital in Sicily or its cancer centers in Ireland.
It's time to move past the stale UPMC vs. Highmark battle. It's time for patients to pick a side and go with the hospital network of their choice. Tell your employer that you want health insurance that lets you go where you want.
As for UPMC and Highmark, just tell us why we should pick you. Is it quality? Is it cost?
The smartest thing the ads do is revive the catchphrase, “Choose your health care as if your life depended on it.” It's a warning that could come from either UPMC or Highmark.
Luis Fábregas is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- LaBar: Best next opponent for Brock Lesnar
- Rossi: Baseball needs a new schedule
- Pirates rout Cardinals to keep things interesting in NL Central
- Rams take down TJ in season opener
- Pirates reliever Liz new, improved
- Ford City Express may be back on track by Christmas
- Steelers remain confident in defense
- Pirates notebook: Burnett continues to progress, amps up to 95-pitch simulated game
- At least one dead in Beaver County fire
- Dozens of cats rescued from trash-filled home in Arnold
- Penn State Greater Allegheny welcomes return of bus route to campus